IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2016 - 72

By George C. Loehr

O

ON 21 AUGUST 2017, THE UNITED STATES
will experience one of the most amazing phenomena imaginable. A total eclipse of the
sun will occur, and essentially everyone in
the contiguous 48 states will experience it to
some extent. What's more, the so-called "path
of totality" will stretch from coast to coast-
Oregon to South Carolina (Figure 1). It's
likely that more people will experience this
solar eclipse than any in history. The approximately 12 million people who live within the
70-mi-wide path of totality, plus the thousands more who'll travel sometimes very long
distances, will see a once-in-a-lifetime event:
the disk of the moon completely and exactly
blocking the disk of the sun. Assuming they
have clear skies, of course!
Nevertheless, those of us who are involved
in the operation or management of electric
power systems in North America may have
good reason to be concerned. On 20 March
2015, a solar eclipse occurred in heavily populated Europe. How did it affect the European
power systems, and what can we learn from
their experience?

The Physics of an Eclipse
To understand, we need to explore some of
the physics of an eclipse. A solar eclipse
occurs when the sun, moon, and Earth line
up perfectly, specifically, when the moon is
positioned precisely between the sun and the

A Fine Day
for an Eclipse
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2016.2593765
Date of publication: 19 October 2016

72

ieee power & energy magazine

1540-7977/16©2016IEEE

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